To the Moon

WA Museum Boola Bardip’s amazing feat of design and content in record time, while working closely with NASA and artists, explores the moon from multiple angles.


Helen Simondson, Manager of WA Museum Boola Bardip, and curator of To the Moon. Photo Lyn DiCiero.

The moon has been the subject of intrigue, reverence and mystery throughout human history, influencing cultures, driving scientific discovery and inspiring creativity. At the WA Museum Boola Bardip it is the inspiration for To the Moon, a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration into our closest celestial neighbour, 384,000 kilometres from Earth. Far from a dry and dusty exhibition one might expect from a museum, To the Moon is an exciting mix of art, pop culture, planetary science, historical insights, as well as the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

The exhibition begins with a miniature 1960s lounge room, replete with a miniature television showing a video of what 600 million-plus people around the world saw in 1969 when man landed on the moon. The room is repeated at full scale inside the exhibition, as are the tension-filled moments of the landing, the grainy original footage now enhanced by AI. 

Jumping across timelines, works by Indigenous artists such as Shane Pickett (1957-2010), Brian Robinson and Ngarra (c1920-2008), exhibited care of Mossenson Galleries, explore an ancient reading of the moon. Helen Simondson, Manager of the WA Museum Boola Bardip and curator of the exhibition, says First Nations people have been looking to the moon as an incredibly important symbol, as a part of navigation and as part of law for hundreds of thousands of years. “We call this section Dreaming the Moon, and where possible artist statements talk about the moon rather than the work, which has been a really nice element to the interpretation because it’s one thing to consider the works from a creative perspective, but these are about a symbolic perspective.”

The multiform exhibition also includes Museum of the Moon, an impressive scale replication of the moon and its surface by UK artist Luke Jerram. The seven-metre diameter work is based on NASA imagery, with each centimetre of the internally lit sculpture representing five kilometres of the moon’s surface. Revealed as visitors walk through a corridor, the suspended work includes a soundscape of moon inspired music, such as  Debussy’s Clair de lune. In fact moon inspired music is featured throughout each of seven zones of the exhibition, so expect to hear plenty of music like David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Sting’s Walking on the Moonadding another layer of immersion to the exhibition. 

Across old and new movies, cartoons and sci-fi Memento Moon is a multi-screen ‘mashup’ by artist Field Carr, paying homage to the moon across cinema and television. Commissioned by the Museum, Memento Moonalso includes A Trip to the Moon, the 1902 science fiction film by Georges Méliès, created just two years after the Lumiere brothers invented cinema. 

A highlight of the exhibition is a small piece of moon rock, one of the last moon samples collected from the final crew on the 1972 NASA Apollo 17 mission. The future is not forgotten with a 3D model of the Space Launch System mega rocket which sent Orion into space in 2022 in the first of a series of missions to enable exploration of the moon and future missions to Mars. 

Amazingly, To the Moon was pulled together in just three months. “It was mental,” says Simondson. “We had an exhibition in our schedule that dropped out and beyond our control and we had already agreed and negotiated the Museum of the Moon, the Luke Jerram work, which was going to be in another part of the building. And then all of a sudden we had this moment where we were looking around and couldn’t find another exhibition for this big space and then we thought we could start with the Museum of the Moon. I think we couldn’t have done it with anything other than the moon in some ways because there’s so much NASA content and they’re really great to work with and everything is such beautiful quality.”

She says you never know how people are going to respond to an exhibition until it opens. “I was the content lead, but there was a lot of staff involved in pulling it together and a lot of really great design ideas. And then you start to see people come through and some of the delight of people, like seeing a little girl being excited and shouting, ‘oh the moon.’ Those sorts of moments when people are totally engaging with the interactivity of the show make it all worth it.” 

To the Moon is on show at the WA Museum Boola Bardip until 7 October. Tickets: Standard $15, Concession and Junior $12.50, under four free. 

♦ Exhibition view of Museum of the Moon by Luke Jerram. Photo J Wyld. 

Saturn Apollo Program. Photo courtesy NASA.

♦ The In Event of Moon Disaster exhibition zone at To the Moon. Photo courtesy WA Museum Boola Bardip.


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